My writing notebook was recently hijacked by a 6-year-old. My oldest daughter decided to use it to practice her handwriting. She also gave it a title, which it was, admittedly, lacking. Behold my notebook:
This is my project journal, filled with scribblings of character traits, research details, a bazillion questions and thoughts, and now some doodles of kitties and kidwriting, too. While my first reaction was to remind her to be respectful of other people’s things, I quickly realized she’d given me a gift that keeps on giving every time I open this notebook.
See, I had this crazy idea that my second novel would be somehow easier than my first. You know, enter the novelist…been there, done that, ready to zip through this baby like a boss.
It’s kinda like having a second child. You think, okay, I’m already a MOM. I’m a pro! I’m going to get this kid sleeping through the night, sharing easily at a young age, using the potty in no time! And then baby #2 surprises you by being the magnificent bug-eating, cabinet-climbing, night-screaming, joke-cracking creature that #1 just….wasn’t. True, you are a diaper-changing whiz, but really, you have to learn to be a mom all over again. You find strengths and weaknesses in yourself that you didn’t know about before. You discover courage and tears. You find yourself becoming more…YOU as a new life attaches itself to yours. It’s hard work, and it’s amazing work.
So is “lerning to write.”
Each new project requires that we learn to write all over again (though we do get the benefit of experience that allows us to build on our former knowledge and skills!) We don’t have to know the answers yet, because we haven’t written this book yet. We just have to be willing to learn and be transformed in the process.
This is an especially potent reminder for me when I get stuck. My latest project had been difficult to start actually writing. I sent my first novel off on a submission round and was ready to focus on something new. But I just…couldn’t. It was making me ansty, itchy, and irritable, because I was bursting with ideas but just couldn’t get up the right head of steam to actually put the words on the page. I began to realize that I was really scared. Scared of doing the whole process all over again and failing. Scared of not being able to come up with the “right” ending or answers. Scared of writing a hundred pages that I’ll just end up throwing away, wasting time that could have been spent scrubbing my kitchen floor or playing Candy Land. (Cue the Mommy guilt!)
But then, my sweet baby #1, in her own special and surprising way, kicked my rear into gear.
Behold my refrigerator:
And now, look closely at the other side…..
“Here Mommy, this is for you,” she said, handing me this poem. In case you can’t read the text in the picture, it says:
I dare to
walk in the
dark. I dare
to be alone.
I dare to zoom
to Outer Space!
I dare not to
be shy. I dare
to be myself. I
Suddenly, I felt brave. After hugging her a hundred times and exclaiming that she’s probably a better writer than I am, I sat down and just started typing. The antsy itchies melted away into words. Sure, I’ll need to rearrange them, cut and paste and hit delete. But mustering the courage to create that ugly rough draft is half the battle.
May this sweet poem give you the courage, too, to walk in the dark, work alone, zoom to new heights, truly be yourself, and keep “lerning.” It’s never going to become “easy.” Then it would lose its meaning, its transformational power for the writer and the reader, its magic. It will always, always, always require courage!
This is the journey each of us must take. This is the adventure we’re on. Alone, and yet, together. So pssst…..I dare YOU!